Becoming a parent is the one of the hardest things most of us will ever do – and it doesn’t come with a handbook or training.
Parenting is mostly very rewarding; however, it can also be very challenging, especially if you have no prior experience of looking after children.
Being a parent or carer comes with responsibilities. These include providing a home for your child, maintaining them financially and protecting them – in other words, you are responsible for looking after the child and keeping them safe.
Safe parenting means looking after your child’s physical and emotional well-being. It includes:
Parental responsibility does not end until your child is 18 years old unless he or she marries at 16 or 17 (when your parental responsibility does end).
Dealing with problems
There is no such thing as a perfect parent, and it’s inevitable that you will occasionally feel out of your depth, or look back and wish you had handled things differently.
The important thing is that your child knows you love them and are trying to do the best for them. Give them guidance and boundaries, while acknowledging that they push against you from time to time.
Don’t be afraid to seek support. No-one will think you are a bad parent.
Children and young people need extra protection to stay safe. This extra protection is provided in the form of children’s rights. In Wales, these rights are enshrined in law.
Smacking a child
Since March 2022, all forms of physical punishment of children – such as smacking, hitting, slapping and shaking – are illegal in Wales.
This means any parent who shows any other kind of physical violence towards their child – or any other child – could be arrested and prosecuted for assault.
Leaving your child on their own
Surprisingly, there is no law to say at what age you can leave a child on their own, e.g. at home or in a car. This means it is left to parents to decide when a child is mature enough to be left alone and for how long.
The NSPCC suggests the kind of things parents should take into account before leaving a child alone, but warns:
- babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone
- children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time
- children under 16 shouldn’t be left alone overnight
If you’re not certain your child could cope on their own, it’s best not to leave them. You can be prosecuted if you leave a child unsupervised ‘in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health’.
Help and advice with parenting
Parenting. Give it Time offers practical parenting advice, tips and activities to anyone with responsibility for raising children aged from birth to five.
Your local Family Information Service is another good source of support for parents.
Parent Talk Cymru provides bilingual parenting support, including online articles and one-to-one chat.
The NSPCC has published a guide to Positive Parenting, which is free to download (Welsh version).